George Orwell’s grim tale of oppression, manipulation and abuse of power in Animal Farm was written as a critique of the Stalinist movement in Russia. Yet, the story remains as relevant as it did in 1945.
Animal Farm is the story of the animals on Manor Farm who fight the oppression of the wicked farmer, Mr Jones to become liberated beings free to enjoy the fruits of their labour. After winning the fight against Mr Jones, the place is renamed Animal Farm and the animals enjoy a brief period of paradise with equality for all. However, they’re soon manipulated into oppression by their own kind and wind up worse off than before.
A brief glance into the course of history since and even a cursory look at current events reveals the familiarity of this story in politics of today. The United States’ Commander-In-Chief spews out confusing statements every other day, the United Kingdom can’t seem to hold it together since the Brexit referendum results, the Middle East is enveloped in a seemingly endless storm while Asia tries to make sense of it all. Thus, now’s a good time as any to inspect this literary classic- which is exactly what Omar Ali did with a localised Bahasa Malaysia adaptation known as Kandang.
Set to roar to life at Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) from 10th to 13th August, Kandang explores the premise that absolute power corrupts absolutely. “There will be references to our contemporary landscape both local and abroad as much of the execution of the play is actually inspired by current events,” says director Omar Ali who adapted the tale together with Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim. “The main talking point is the word ‘Kandang’ itself, which literally translates to cage. My goal is to examine and analyse what this word means and represents.”
The two hour production brings sees Ashraf Zain as Tunggal (Napoleon), Farah Rani as Bintaga (Snowball) and Joe Chin as Gading (Squealer) who will be leaping about the stage in deliberate movements choreographed by Movement Director Ho Lee Ching. While Kandang may be a play, musical elements together with synchronised movements give it a nice light-hearted touch. It is satire after all, and the melodious tunes of traditional music instruments such as the gamelan and rebana composed by Music Director Coebar Abel give it a hauntingly wonderful Malaysian spirit.
Together with a witty script that perfectly balances playfulness with social commentary, Kandang is a brilliant reminder to never lose sight of vision and to always be weary of absolute power. We don’t want to unwittingly cage ourselves now, do we?